PUEBLO — Our News 5 Investigates team is looking into why a patient was given two different versions of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As we discovered, this goes against guidance from the Pueblo Health Department and the CDC.
Mixing vaccines is only in clinical phases right now. The practice has not been approved from general distribution in the United States.
Cassidy Garcia received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Pueblo Mall on March 11---just before the vaccine site moved to a new location on the state fairgrounds.
"When I went to get my next vaccine, they had said that I was supposed to get the Moderna vaccine," Garcia said. "I told them that my card said Pfizer and I'm sure I got Pfizer and they said it says I got Moderna in their system and that's what they're going to give me."
Cassidy reluctantly got the vaccine and produced her card showing News 5 that she in fact received one dose of Pfizer and one dose of Moderna.
She says shortly after receiving the Moderna shot, she started feeling ill.
"I had about a 102 degree temperature for 48 hours," she said. "I was nauseated with shakes, chills and a fever. It was just bad."
Now these are normal symptoms patients may experience after being vaccinated. They cannot be attributed solely to receiving a mixture of two different vaccines.
Still, Cassidy grew worried and contacted the Pueblo Health Department.
"They lady confirmed it was the Pfizer vaccine that I had received at first," Cassidy said. "Then she said she had to talk with a supervisor and she hadn't heard of this happening before and she wasn't sure what the next steps were."
Cassidy says Centura Health and the Pueblo Health Department never got back to her about her concerns, so she reached out to News 5 Investigates for help.
We asked the Pueblo Health Department about whether it had authorized mixing vaccines given to patients at the state fairgrounds location.
Jody Carrillo, the Environmental Health and Emergency Preparedness Director at the Pueblo Department of Health and Environment replied through a spokesperson.
"The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment does not have the authority to approve mixing of vaccines," PDPHE Communications Specialist Adura LeTurgez said via email. "The COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at the Colorado State Fairgrounds was previously operated by the State of Colorado and Centura and is now operated by FEMA and Centura."
Dr. Christopher Urbina, PDPHE's medical officer also responded via email.
"The goal is to vaccinate every participant at their first and second dose appointments from the same company."
The CDC has also publicly stated that "COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable".
"The safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series have not been evaluated," the CDC states. "Both doses of the series should be completed with the same product."
Cassidy says this entire situation has increased her anxiety.
"I just need to know what the next steps are," she said. "Do I need to get a third vaccine? Am I fully vaccinated now? What happens from here?"
The Pueblo Health Department says Cassidy is considered fully vaccinated---despite receiving doses from two different companies.
Although FEMA is now involved with vaccine distributions in Pueblo, they were not involved at the time Cassidy received her vaccine at the fairgrounds.
"We would refer you to Centura Health for this particular question (case)," a FEMA spokesperson said.
Late Thursday afternoon, Lindsay Radford, a spokesperson for Centura Health issued the following statement:
At COVIDCheck Colorado and Centura Health, patient health and safety is a top priority as we vaccinate our communities against COVID-19. We can confirm that a patient has received two different mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. We have existing protocols to address such incidents that follow CDC guidelines, and those protocols include contacting patients who have experienced this issue and advising them not to receive further COVID-19 vaccinations.
The CDC notes: “In exceptional situations in which the vaccine product given for the first dose cannot be determined or is no longer available, any mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be administered at a minimum interval of 28 days between doses to complete the mRNA COVID-19 vaccination series.” Nevertheless, we are committed to providing consistency between all of our patients’ first and second doses, and consistently strive to strengthen our quality control processes to honor the health and well-being of our patients.
Do you have a story idea or problem you'd like our News 5 Investigates team to look into? Email us: News5Investigates@KOAA.com.